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What Are Your Writing Priorities?

New Year’s is just around the corner and for many of us, one of our resolutions will be to write more. But what are we actually seeking to achieve or experience in 2017? Better quality, or just more quantity? A paycheck or becoming part of a community?

You might say ‘All of the above.’ But Jim Collins said, ‘If you have more than three priorities, then you don’t have any.’ With that profound thought in mind, let’s explore some options so you can pick the most important places to put your time and attention in the new year.

from Bloglovin'

from Bloglovin’

WRITING PRIORITIES

  1. Devote more hours to writing-related activities. For a lot of writers our ‘day jobs’, family, and other commitments push our hobby, our passion, out past the margins of our lives. We can even feel guilty calling ourselves writers when days, weeks (or even months) slip by without us producing anything new. Be assured you are writers but you also have to prioritize your life to allow more time for classes, writing groups, and especially the butt-in-chair work.
  2. Finish ‘The Thing’. For some writers next year (and almost all of us at one time), the most important goal is to cross over to the other side of a big project and declare it ‘done’. This could be a final draft, a first draft, or self publishing a piece. Whatever it is, if your project has started to take on epic proportions in your writing life, please consider making 2017 the year you complete it. You’ll feel empowered and amazing on the other side, I promise.
  3. Make money at writing. This one is tricky because most of us would love to ‘go pro’ or see our efforts pay off. That said, if you really want to make a meaningful amount of cash from writing in the next 365 days, be aware that you’re probably talking about a lot of job hunting, networking, resume polishing, and submitting offers online. Most of us hope to make it one day when the writing’s good enough, the wind’s at our back, and luck at our side — but if you want money now, then you have to realize that next year’s writing time may look more like an office job than creative bliss. Nothing wrong with that — just be ready to get to work.
  4. Start the scary thing. For a portion of us, our priority is doing what’s never been done — by us, at least. If you are starting a blog (email me!), beginning a novel, or teaching your first class, just be aware that perfection, accolades, and cash aren’t your goals. You are doing something incredibly brave, and you should just have as much fun as you can while patting yourself on the back for attempting something new. Perfection will come in time; you are here now for the experience.
  5. Get freakin’ amazing —quality-wise. Maybe you have come a long way in terms of your writing but you’re not quite there yet. Whether you want to improve enough to get published, get a job offer, or just create work you’re really proud of, 2017 is a great time to ‘take it up a notch’. But be aware that it’s work. The same as with a fitness program, becoming a better writer is a long journey with few shortcuts. That said, if you are already producing good work, you may just need to hone that last 5% of your process — polish more, take a class, improve your weak spots, and let your true passions come out more often.

    from Thoughtjoy

    from Thoughtjoy

  6. Be part of a community. For a lot of writers, joining a group is an important way to feel encouraged, inspired, and even ‘real’. You can engage in a critique group to improve your writing, read your work out loud on stage or at a table to experience being a true storyteller, ask questions about everything from plot to formatting, and meet others who are also on this crazy journey. You may even find yourself teaching a class, organizing meetings, or putting on an event.
  7. Get your dream job. If you know exactly what you want to be doing as a writer, then learn everything you can about the people who are already there. Meet these people, ask questions online, read blogs, follow them on Twitter. It also helps to imagine your success story: you’re being interviewed about how you ‘made it’ and you talk about the insane work ethic and bold choices that launched you into the life of your dreams. And if you need to go write 20 scripts, then go write 20 scripts.
  8. Find your joy, your voice, and your passion. On the flip side of money and job offers, there’s using 2017 as a way to discover who you as a person and who you are as a writer. Learn about yourself — who are you since the divorce? Since turning sixty? Since graduating college? And what is your passion and potential as a writer? Could you write a blog post that would save a life? Is it time to return to the poetry of your youth? Could you write the funniest graphic novel ever? This can be the year you can find out.
  9. Get serious. For some, the writing’s easy, but the rest of it is hard. Are your files straight, your work submitted on time, your office at least clean enough to find something when you need it? And especially, can you tell people you’re a writer when they ask what you do? This is real, this is happening. Own your talent, respect it, and don’t get in your own way.

    from Bloglovin'

    from Bloglovin’

  10. Learn how to write. I’m a big believer in learning to write by writing but there are also many wonderful books and teachers out there. It’s very true that we don’t know what we don’t know. If you really want to become a great writer, then invest in yourself and buy some books or take a class. There’s also a ton of free blogs, youtube videos, and groups online that can help you for free. And don’t forget to read a lot too!
  11. Find your fans. Austin Kleon’s great book ‘Show Your Work!’ says ‘Do good work and put it where people can see it.’ Maybe you want 200 people following your blog, or 15 Amazon reviews, or just to get a letter from someone who ‘absolutely adored’ your novel (I got one of those this year!). Maybe the writing’s going well and you’re ready to find your tribe. It will take time and dedication but if you love your work, others will too.
  12. Put your work out in the world. One of the tremendous things about being a writer is the giving and receiving of inspiration. You learn and are inspired by great writing of the past and you write the next chapter in our ongoing, collective, creative story. You spend time alone — months or years — crafting a book and then you let it out into the world. To me, releasing is important. Whether you self publish, traditionally publish, blog, or submit to contests, magazines, and websites, it’s a good feeling to let your work go and see what happens. The point isn’t to make it big, but it make it small — find one fan here and there, a kind word, a touched heart. Your writing can make another person say ‘Oh wow, I thought I was the only one who felt that way.’
from movenourishbelieve.com

from movenourishbelieve.com

So which three of these twelve are your priorities? Or are yours not even of this list? For myself, devoting more hours, improving myself quality-wise, and finding my voice and joy are my resolutions. That last one I didn’t even know was a priority until I starting writing this piece.

And in the end that’s what I hope for you all in 2017 — may your writing lead you to revelations you never expected and to the wonderful destinations you’ve always dreamed about.

from advancehappynewyear2017.com

from
advancehappynewyear2017.com

AWA at ‘Lickskillet’!

We had a great time, met friends old and new, and sold a few books.  Check out the pics below!

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Katherine Cerulean’s ‘dream board’, our drawing for a gift certificate, a red dalek in the donation box, a Philips ‘Hue’ light, and — of course — chocolate.

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So many beautiful books!

Dac Crossley at his booth.

Dac Crossley at his booth.

The Tuesday Writing / Critique Group debuting their newest book 'Tuesday's Tales'

The Tuesday Writing / Critique Group debuting their newest book ‘Tuesday’s Tales’.

Daniel Galt at his booth

Daniel Galt at his booth.

Sara Winick Herrington at her BEE-you-ti-ful table

Sara Winick Herrington at her BEE-you-ti-ful table.

Sara Winick Herrington at her table with Phyl Campbell, Katherine Cerulean, and Amanda McMurtrey.

Sara Winick Herrington at her table with Phyl Campbell, Katherine Cerulean, and Amanda McMurtrey.

Come See Us at Lickskillet 2016!

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Baby table! Our first little setup at Lickskillet 2013 — this year it will be much bigger.

The Athens Writers Association hasn’t done many public events this year (we’ve all been busy writing!) but even introverts like a moment or two in the spotlight so…  We will have an official table at the Lickskillet festival at Lyndon House in downtown Athens, GA.  This event is FREE.  We will have books for sell by Katherine Cerulean, Jennifer Innes, Elsa Russo, Rob White, Phyl Campbell, AWA collections, and more!

There will also be several OTHER booths run by AWA members —

  • Par Ramsey will be debuting the newest book from the AWA offshoot, the Tuesday Writing / Critique Group, at the festival
  • Daniel Galt has a Halloween-themed, spook-tac-u-lar new kids book as well as his earlier books and beautiful photography prints for sale
  • New member Sara Winick Herrington is selling her just released book Bee Happy 
  • And others!

Our table will also offer free handouts about both writing and living your dreams that have been gathered from the best of our classes.  AWA founding members will be staffing the booth all day and will be happy to answer any questions they can about the AWA, self-publishing, and writing in general.  Katherine Cerulean will be giving free life-coaching sessions at the booth, and we’ll be having a free drawing for 15 pages of professional editing from Jonni Anderson.  PLUS chocolate!

Come join in the fun!  It’s also not too late to get your book added to our booth — contact Katherinecerulean@gmail.com if you’re interested.

October 22, 2016 

10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

 Rain or Shine; Free Admission

Lyndon House Arts Center, 293 Hoyt Street, Athens

About Lickskillet

The Lickskillet Artists Market and Festival is a FREE Community Event hosted by the Lyndon House Arts Foundation. Currently in its seventh year, Lickskillet has become one of Athens’ most unique and exciting events, drawing over 1200 attendees from a ten county region. The Lickskillet Artists Market and Festival showcases the talents of over 100 local artists and musicians and offers a full range of activities for everyone.

Event Highlights

  • Athens area artists displaying and selling paintings, photos, prints, jewelry, clothing, ceramics, glasswork, woodwork and sculpture
  • Musical performances by well-known local talent including The Heap, Monsoon, The Lucky Jones, Norma Rae, Clay Leverett, Dixieland 5, Qamar Tribal Odyssey dancers, Larry Forte, and David Court
  • Self-guided tours of the historic Lyndon-Ware House
  • Children’s activities, including:  chalk art, giant bubbles, face painting, portrait gallery, cardboard village, building and design projects with Home Depot volunteers
  • Local food trucks and vendors: Taza Mediterranean, The Savory Spoon, DaMunchiezz, Nedza’s Waffles

About the Lyndon House Arts Foundation

The Lyndon House Arts Foundation, Inc (LHAF) was created to advance the arts and support the development and operation of the Lyndon House Arts Center. This is accomplished through a coalition of artists, businesses, local schools, government and the community at-large.

In addition to sponsorship of special events such as Lickskillet, LHAF offers several membership levels and the opportunity to contribute to an endowment fund named after co-founder Ronnie Lukasiewicz. LHAF is a 501 (c)(3) organization and contributions are tax deductible.  More information can be found on the Foundation website: LyndonHouseArtsFoundation.com.

Lyndon House

Lyndon House

About the Lyndon House Arts Center

The Lyndon House Arts Center (LHAC) is a community visual arts complex serving Athens-Clarke County and neighboring areas. The two-story late Greek revival structure incorporates the Ware-Lyndon House (c. 1856), gallery spaces, art studios, meeting rooms, a research library, event spaces, and festival grounds. Activities of the LHAC are designed to encourage creativity and provide area citizens with a positive experience in the visual arts.

Formatting a Book Manuscript with MS Word

This piece comes to us from local author and teacher Phyl Campbell.  Discover more about Phyl and her work at her website www.phylcampbell.com.  Also, formatting can be stressful, so please enjoy a few pictures of beaches while you work. — Katherine Cerulean, Founder

from wonderfulengineering.com "Formatting is stressful; please enjoy these pictures of beaches." -- KC

from wonderfulengineering.com

If using a POD service like CreateSpace, there are things a writer needs to do to prepare a manuscript for upload.  While each step is not difficult, there are a lot of moving parts or things that change when a writer may not want them to.  For example, increasing the font size will add pages. So will adding headers. All these moving parts can make a writer-turned- formatter into an angry heap of wet noodles, which is why a lot of people are willing to pay vanity presses thousands of dollars to prepare manuscripts for them. However, with a good guide, and a better chunk of TIME (two weeks or more is optimal), any willing writer may format his or her own material for POD.

from d-beach.com

from d-beach.com

Some things should be done during the writing process. Inserting page breaks (not the same as hitting ENTER/RETURN until hitting the next page) between chapters, applying styles to chapter headers and body text, and setting page size. A typical mass market book size is 5×8, so a proper page layout would be 5 wide and 8 tall.
Yes, writers can take the above steps after manuscripts are complete. It is my personal preference to have as many steps already done as possible.

from play.google.com

from play.google.com

Another step I’m always meaning to do as I go, but don’t because I’m frequently adding, removing, and re-arranging chapters, is to create each chapter as a separate section (LAYOUT > BREAKS > SECTION BREAKS > NEXT PAGE). Writers that have 10 or fewer long-ish chapters probably aren’t as bothered by this as writers who have many chapters that are only a few pages long. I fit the latter category.
Insert Page Numbers (I insert page numbers as footers because it is less complicated than adjusting the spacing to include my name, book title, and page numbers at the top)
Create mirror margins (LAYOUT > MARGINS > MIRROR MARGINS).
Create headers.

Writers should pick up a mass market paperback from their genre or that they enjoy and plan their headers to match. This is where sections come in handy. Writers will notice that popular mass market industry standard does not have headers on the same page as a new chapter. Formatters achieve this by clicking a few boxes in the Header Design tab. Add a header. Go to that header. The MSWord command ribbon will change to show options for the DESIGN of the Header. Find and check the boxes for different first page and different even and odd pages. As the writer-
turned-formatter gets used to the bugs of MSWord, they may have to click these boxes for each section several times as they move about pages and chapters.

Check progress by saving often, then selecting FILE > PRINT > Print to PDF. A separate dialog box will come up for the writer to name the PDF being saved. I name my files with the Book title, date, and time – no punctuation.
This allows me to see my most recent save most easily. Then I open CreateSpace, go to Interior Files, and upload the latest PDF. I have to wait a few (up to 10) minutes for processing, but then CreateSpace will tell me about any errors or inconsistencies.

from 7-themes.com

from 7-themes.com

Create front and back matter. Interior title pages, previous works by page, copyright page, about the author/artist page, upcoming book page, dedication page – looking at other mass market books will help writers determine where all these pages should go. Using the CreateSpace check as a guide, writers can choose where to insert pages, including blank pages, into their manuscript (back in MSWord) to preserve page placement.
Because headers and page numbers are not supposed to be seen on front and back matter, I create each page of front and back matter as a separate section and click the header box “different first page.”

from beaches.com.au

from beaches.com.au

This guide comes as a result of publishing more than 10 books using MSWord. I know more after the tenth book than I did after my first. I will know more after publishing book number 15 or 20, undoubtedly. Any writers who are aware of mistakes I am making or other shortcuts, easier or better ways to achieve the same results, feel free to educate me. I’m as happy to learn as I am to share what I know.

Quick and Dirty Book Publishing Guide

Today’s post comes to us from member Phyl Campbell, who recently moved here from Arkansas.  She’s published several books and teaches writing.  Please check out her AWA page as well as her website to learn more.  — Katherine Cerulean, founder

 

My way is not the only way to publish an Indie book. These steps are my best advice for creating a print book (paperback) that can be made available on Amazon or purchased wholesale by the author for resale at book buying events.

  1. Create a manuscript using a word processor.
  • Use sections (Page Break, Section Break) for each chapter or section
  • Use Headers and Footers to create page numbers and to write your book title and author name on each page (I keep another published book in front of me as a guide)
  • Create the front matter (title, copyright page, dedication). Again, use a previously published book to see the industry standard.
  • Create the back matter (acknowledgments, author note, about the author, preview of next book)
  • Front matter and back matter should not have page numbers, headers, or footers. I use section breaks to do this, but my brother recommends applying white text boxes where text should be hidden.
  • Use Styles to establish one font and font size for chapter headers and a different font and font size for basic text. You can also use it to select indents, spacing between lines and other text features. It’s tricky to learn, but will save any many steps.
  • In my word processing tool bar, there is a paragraph mark symbol. Select it to see all hidden formatting symbols like spaces and hard/soft returns.
  • Learn how to use Find and Replace. Especially MORE/FORMAT
  • Save document (OFTEN!)
  1. Create an account for or log into CreateSpace (www.CreateSpace.com)
  • Under the My Account tab, select Add New Title
  • Follow the instructions to select book size, paper, and other attributes
  • Skip the step of adding an interior file
  • Create a Cover (Create and upload the PDF, or use their template and images – I do a combination)
  1. Go back to your word processor document.
  • Adjust paper size or margins to fit the selected book size.
  • Add the CreateSpace assigned ISBNs to the copyright page
  • Export to PDF (sometimes this is “print to PDF” or “save to PDF”)
  • Open the PDF file to check for correct placement of headers, footers, and page numbers. Select “view two page” with “separate title page” (2 boxes to check)
  • Without a PDF editor, make changes to the PDF by making the changes in Word and repeating the Export to PDF/Print to PDF/Save as PDF option.
  1. Go back to CreateSpace
  • Go to the Title created in Step 2.
  • Go to the step of uploading an Interior File.
  • It is possible to upload files from a word processor without the PDF step. I don’t think the files come across as cleanly — some formatting is lost (fonts, margins, page breaks). This has been my experience.
  • Choose sales channels and set book price(s)
  • Submit files for review
  1. The file review check takes 24-48 hours. It will determine whether all the content from the submitted file fits within the margins of the selected layout.
  • Make changes to the review file until CreateSpace (and you) are satisfied, either by making changes to the CreateSpace review file (when applicable), changing book attributes in CreateSpace, or making changes to the PDF/ word document.
  • Repeat the file review steps each time changes are made.
  • When the review comes back without errors, and the book is acceptable to you, select Publish.

Published titles are available immediately on CreateSpace, and within 1-5 days on Amazon (if Amazon was selected) or other channels.

  1. My way is not the only way to publish an Indie book. Some people buy their own ISBNs (See LightningSource instead of CreateSpace), hire out cover artists and layout designers, formatters, editors, etc. Some people only publish to Kindle. These steps are my best advice for creating a print book that can be made available on Amazon or purchased wholesale by the author for resale at book buying events.
  1. Timeline. On average, creating the manuscript takes me a year. Preparing a cover takes me two weeks (over a month with reader input). Formatting the interior (for me) is a two-week job minimum. I try to format as I go, but best laid plans sometimes go awry, and I have to undo formatting to add pages, delete pages, or fiddle with margins. Can someone else do it faster and better? Undoubtedly. I encourage people with tips or tricks to share their knowledge.

So You Want To Write a Fantasy Novel?

from fantasy-faction.com

from fantasy-faction.com

We recently had two classes at the library.  The first was an AWA round-table event about ebooks and self publishing, which had a great turnout and turned into a lively discussion.  Click here to learn more about How to Create and Publish an Ebook.

Our second talk was a ‘Lunchtime Learning’ event the library asked us to do on the topic of writing fantasy.  As the audience included wee newbies as well many-times-over published writers, it presented a unique challenge.  Below are the handouts for the class if you’re interested.  The first is ‘How to Write a Novel’ — a brief overview for the utter newbie.  Then, having taught them everything they could possibly need to know about that topic (in one page, no less!), we moved on to the second handout ‘So You Want To Write a Fantasy Novel?’  We had a great group and a lot of fun.

Our last class of the season is ‘A Work of HeART: Bringing Soul-Level Beauty & Meaning Into Your Writing‘, and it will take place on Saturday, April 16, at 4:00 PM at the Athens Regional Library meeting rooms.  All AWA classes are free.  More info here.

How to Write a Novel

By Katherine Cerulean

Come up with an idea.  Read a lot, especially books outside of your favorite genre (fantasy, crime, young adult etc).  When you have an idea, ask yourself — who has the most to gain (or lose) in this situation?  A little fish goes on an adventure across the ocean.  Who — besides him— has the most to lose?  His dad, who wants to find his only child and bring him home safely.  It’s been said that the best book to write is the one you want to read  — but can’t find because it hasn’t been written yet.  Go write it!

Really think about your characters.  Who is living in your world?  Who’s the hero?  Do they have flaws like we all do?  The ‘ordinary world’ of the Hero’s Journey storytelling model has the hero ‘making do’ — they think things are fine, but really their world is about to change in big ways.  Think about Rick in ‘Casablanca’ — he needs to confront his past, and become a more whole person to move forward.  Find songs, make playlists, buy jewelry that you think your character would wear — get into their heads and discover their voices.

Outline your story.  This will help you know where you are and inspire you to keep moving forward.  You can outline every scene and plot development but you don’t have to.  Google the ‘Snowflake method book outline’ if you want a very detailed outline.  Otherwise, work on a 1-2 page outline or synopsis.  Writing down the major plot points of a favorite movie (is if you were telling the movie to a friend) can help you learn the process.  Just remember, a good outline is a roadmap — not a blueprint — and like any roadmap, if something interesting catches your eye you should follow it and forget the plan.  Just get back on track with the roadmap after your side adventure.

Your only goal is getting to ‘The End’.  As a beginning novelist, the idea of completing a book can be daunting.  On your first draft, don’t worry about perfect spelling, editing, etc.  Follow your outline — as long as it’s still exciting to you — and head for the finish line.  Set aside some time every week to write.  This is your dream — and you can make it happen!  A novel is usually at least 75,000 words long but it can be as short as 45,000 words (Think of ’The Bridges of Madison County’).

Go through a second draft.  After you reach ‘The End’ pop a bottle of bubbly, enjoy a fancy dinner, and put your manuscript in a drawer.  Leave it there at least two weeks, maybe even a month, and then pull it out and reread it.  Look for big problems: did one of your characters disappear halfway through the book?  Add them into the later sections — or cut them entirely.  Does the beginning make sense now that you’re written the end?  Does the book start too soon — can you cut the opening?  And what about ‘theme’?  If your story became a coming of age story while you were writing it, is that clear from the beginning?  The second draft is a great time to add in or cut large sections of the story if need be.

Do a third draft.  Time to polish.  Run ‘spellcheck’, then read it carefully to check all those  wrong words it missed — then/than, there/their/they’re.  Consider reading your work aloud to yourself — sentences and especially the way characters speak will sound right or wrong when heard out loud.  Do any last research you need.  Basically, make it the best book you can write.  Then…

Find some beta readers.  Beta readers are your first ever readers (yay!) and they are doing you a big favor.  As proud as you are of your book, they don’t know anything about it and are probably really busy in their own lives.  So appreciate them.  3-5 beta readers are the ideal number.  Try to find people who are kind, your friends, smart, and hopefully will give you honest feedback.  It helps if they like your kind/genre of story.  Take feedback cheerfully.

Do a fourth draft.  Good golly!  Yes, that’s a lot of rewrites.  But good readers will point out issues and problems you might want to fix.  I say might because in the end, it’s your call.  Also, read the whole thing again, checking for spelling and grammar errors.

Sent it to agents, publishers, or self-publish.  You did it!

Write another book!  Check out the Athenswritersassociation.wordpress.com for help. 

So You Want To Write a Fantasy Novel?

By Katherine Cerulean

Fantasy is a genre of novel and it includes such sub-genres as ‘Urban Fantasy’ (modern day and set in the city), ‘High Fantasy’ (elves and dwarves and wizards — oh my!), ‘Young Adult Fantasy’ (Hunger Games/The Maze Runner/Twilight), and even ‘Magical Realism’ (usually a character-centered drama with the merest hint of magic [her grandmother caused it to rain every time she baked gingersnaps]).

Fantasy is exceptional because it allows us to dream bigger, hope more, live greater adventures, and experience things that could never be in this world.  When we are young, fantasy stories fill our lives — animals talk, drive, solve mysteries.  And even as older children — Neverland, Narnia, OZ, and Hogwarts are as real as Main Street and our school.  And in the last 15 years fantasy has blown up as a mainstream category for adults — with books, TV shows, and movies full of vampires, werewolves, post-apocalyptic trials, and superheroes are becoming more and more common.

So what do you need to know about this unique form of storytelling?

World-building in fantasy is paramount.  You get to make the rules!  But the flip side is that the drama, plot, and character growth is only as strong as the world you build.  Think about all the details in Harry Potter — often the most important storytelling devices were tiny aspects of magic.  And you have to know what your hero can and can’t do (and explain it to your readers) so they can enjoy the story and the world you made.

Readers want to connect to your character.  This may be true in all fiction, but in fantasy you’re asking the reader to take a leap of faith into a strange, new land where everything we know may not apply.  That’s a lot to ask.  But a great lead character can help suck readers in, and often learn about the new world at the same time your hero does (think about how many fantasy stories start with the lead character embarking on a journey, entering a new, dangerous land, or discovering a power/family/purpose they never knew they had).

Go for the ‘WOW!’  The only limits in fantasy are the limits of your imagination.  So don’t settle for what you’ve seen done before; give us new creatures, devastating choices, weird powers, unusual rules, and awesome fight scenes.  Expand your mind — if you read only 100 young adult fantasy novels, your work will sound like the rest.  Instead, read Shakespeare, watch ‘Spongebob’, listen to murder ballads from the 1920s, play ‘Portal’, and read the comic ’Fables’.  The more influences you have, the most interesting your work can become.

Find a plot that MOVES.  Tolkin said, ‘A journey is a wonderful thing for a writer.’  Most fantasy is plot-based versus character-based which means that what the characters do is more important that who they are.  This isn’t to say your characters don’t matter, but they have to be taking an active role in their world and trying to change things.  Think of Katniss in the Hunger Games: in the very beginning she’s hunting to feed her family, saves her sister’s life, and starts working to survive the games.  She’s active from minute one — and we can’t wait to see what happens next — what she makes happen next.

Know the rules, then break them.  If you want to make every character in your story named something like Xaxzxa Axzxaxzz, then you need to ask yourself two questions — Are the fantasy books I love doing this?  And if not, why not?  Very strange names, 68 main characters, a 1,000,000 word count (most books are between 75,000 and 150,000 words), and other out-there ideas aren’t necessarily bad, but they are all very challenging for readers.  Even the best, most experienced writers would hesitate to make their book hard to read, so just ask yourself if you can do anything to make the reader have a more enjoyable time.

Remember that fantasy is often about INNER conflict.  Sci fi tends to be about the outer/other — what’s in space, on other worlds, and how we treat those who are different than ourselves.  But fantasy is about US, who we really are, what destiny lies out there waiting for us, and what good and evil powers reside within our souls.  While the plot (action) is most important, characters who learn, are challenged, and grow are why this genre is so memorable.  You can also make the implicit explicit — the boy who doesn’t want to grow up, the girl who discovers ‘There’s no place like home’, the boy who makes his father proud by taming a dragon instead of killing one, and the young man who carries his father’s ‘sword’ and says ‘I am a Jedi like my father before me’.  Anything going on in your life, anything that hurts and makes you feel, can probably be turned on its head and become a great fantasy curse/power.  As any scholar can tell you, vampire and werewolf stories are really about our animal natures vs. our civilized world.

Fantasy is a part of our history, our heritage.  Almost all of us grew up hearing fairytales.  And myths and legends, from The Odyssey to the alligators in New York sewers, have been popular for thousands of years.  ‘Once upon a time,’ invites everyone in, and the human mind often welcomes the chance to hear something beyond belief.

 You are unique.  Therefore, your story is unique.  No one in the history of the world has ever thoughts the same as you, enjoyed the same things as you, or liked the same triple-decker ice cream cone flavors as you (you freak!).  So don’t worry about all the other fantasy stories out there.  They call it ‘stalking the gaps’ — look for the story you wish existed but that you can’t find.  Then think of a plot and characters that make you excited, and write the story you wouldn’t want to stop reading (hint: it’s the one you can’t stop writing or thinking about).  As writer Brenda Ueland said, ‘Everyone is original, unique, and has something important to say.’

You can make the world a better place.  Good writing, and great storytelling, is far too rare.  And you never know how many people might desperately need your special, magical story in their lives.  J.K. Rowling was out of work, and surely very busy, but she took the time to write down little Harry Potter’s first story, and millions of lives are better for it.  Fantasy readers are people who believe in the power of magic — some are young, and some simply never stopped believing that the world is full of great and beautiful things.  I think that makes fantasy novels unique because its readers believe that the book you write can change their life, can alter their path, sometimes — it can even save a life.  You should have the most fun you can while writing your fantasy novel, but you should never, ever — even for a second — think that it’s a silly thing to do.  You might just change the world, for the better, forever.  At least you’ll be able to say you made one dream come true — yours.  Best of luck.

Please contact me at Katherinecerulean@gmail.com with any questions and get more support for free by joining the Athens Writers Association — athenswritersassociation.workpress.com.

Literary Elements — How To Write a Book

We have a lot of new members (and new writers!) who have joined the AWA in the last few months, so I wanted to share a ‘Beginner’s Guide’ that I wrote for an Athens Regional Library class a few years ago.

Alright newbies — allons y!

tylerbasu.com

tylerbasu.com

Literary Elements —

How To Write a Book

by Katherine Cerulean

  Somewhere in your heart you know it.  Maybe this is a recent dream, but quite likely it’s been kicking around in your subconscious for some time and every once in a while, when reading a new book, or hearing an author interview, or thinking about your lifetime goals it comes to the surface — you want to write a book.  Maybe you dream of being a fulltime, famous, professional writer or maybe there’s just one idea or story that begging you to expound on it and send it out into the world.

Whatever your dream project is — a memoir, non-fiction, children’s book, or novel — there are some common elements needed to move from Chapter 1 to ‘The End’.

Elements of Success in Writing:

  • Figure out what you want to tell and why. Before you write a word, get a good idea of why this book?  Toni Morrison says ‘If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.’  That’s always been my driving force.  Figure out what makes it special and different than similar books.  Don’t worry about originality yet (we’ll get to that part), just envision who your book is for.  Sometimes it helps to think of a person you know who is also your intended audience.
  • Plan (a little). Finding a similar book can help you get an idea of number of chapters, number of pages, type of words (for children’s books) etc that your book might have.  The internet has acted to level the playing field and let you acquire ‘insider knowledge’ of the book business. Did you know there are four categories for children’s fiction?  Simply do a Google search for ‘books how many children fiction categories are there’ and you can find the answer.  Just remember that ten ‘Wikihow’ articles don’t necessarily equal the depth of one good how-to book.  This is the ‘know the rules so you can break them’ phase.
  • Make a roadmap, not a blueprint. I wish I remembered what writing book this was from, but never the less it’s still important advice: make a roadmap not a blueprint of your book.  A blueprint is exacting and unchanging, but a roadmap lets you decide to take a detour when you see something interesting and you still know where you’ll be at the end of your book.  A lot of beginning writers start without a roadmap, and begin with a flush of excitement but can lose their way after a few chapters.  To me, a good road map is only a couple of pages long but will let you know the next ‘beat’ of your book if you get lost.  The outline for my novel ‘A Caged Heart Still Beats’ was two pages long and explained the main plot from beginning to end — just like you were telling a best friend the plot of a movie you saw.  For my self help non-fiction book, I decided to focus on five areas of improvement (Inspiration, Freedom, Peace, Energy, Strength) and then decided to have five little chapters in each area and named them (i.e. Do Yoga).  These outlines kept me moving forward while giving me the freedom to discover better ideas along the way.
  • Make your goal to finish. Believe me — there’s nothing quite like the feeling of finishing your first book, of knowing you’ve done what a lot of people will talk about but will never do.  You can always edit and polish on later drafts but just getting finished should be your first goal.  I started with screenplays and just told myself that whether or not the plot made any sense, I would reach page 100 (the length of a screenplay).  I knew one writer who kept rewriting chapter one of his novel over and over again.  I met him again years later and he was still writing chapter ones.  Now, each person must follow their own path and it’s great he’s still writing, but if your goal is a finished book — look toward that finish line.
  • Remember — you have potential. My belief is that LOVE + TIME = TALENT.  If you keep writing, and reading, and learning you will get better and better.  The book ‘Talent is Overrated’ has some wonderful stories about how being born ‘talented’ might mean you get out of the starting gate before everyone else, but if you’re trotting and everyone else is working hard and galloping along you’ll soon be left in the dust.  If you love the book you’re writing, if you’re excited by it, the feeling will pass right along to the reader.  And you are the only you who has ever been, so your work (if it’s true to you) will be original and one-of-a-kind.
  • Just keep writing. Even a page a day will get you to your goal.

How to Write — a Practical Timeline

Here’s the nitty-gritty of how I get to ’The End’:

  1. Get an idea. You might be reading a news article, or another novel, watching a film, or daydreaming a ‘what if’ and it gets you — this is a good book idea.
  2. What kind of book? If you want to explore organic farming, is this a non-fiction investigation?  A ‘how to’?  A novel set on an organic farm?  Figure out what first drew you in — that’s your passion.
  3. Who lives there? In a novel, for me, the people arise from the idea.  In ‘A Caged Heart Still Beats’ I ‘saw’ a cage in the middle of a Regency England estate and started asking ‘Who would be put in such a cage and for what purpose?  In a memoir you might be writing about your grandmother but who influenced her?  Who were her heroes?  Her nemeses?  Even a non-fiction book may need examples of people who succeeded — be it in building a birdhouse or starting a business.
  4. Make an outline / roadmap. A couple of page document, meant just for you, that hits the main points of what you want to tell.
  5. Research (if the spirit moves you). Some people LOVE research, others can’t stand it.  Depending on the story you’re writing, you may eventually need to do some, but whether or not you like it, don’t let research slow you down too much from actually starting writing.
  6. Boldly begin. Start a chapter one, and make time to write.  I also don’t believe in writer’s block.  If something isn’t interesting to you, set it aside and write something else.
  7. Edit (a little) as you go. I know this runs counter to what a lot of people do but my way is to start each day rereading the pages I worked on last session and making spelling/grammar corrections along the way.  I don’t worry about making big changes though; I mainly read just to get back to the flow and excitement of what I’m doing last time.
  8. Finish the first draft. Hit the last page and celebrate.  Buy yourself dinner or a nice bottle of bubbly.  Then put your book aside for two weeks or a month.  This time is crucial to getting some distance and seeing your work with new eyes.
  9. Do a second draft. Reread the book, see how you feel about it — is there anything BIG you want to change?  New chapters, love interests, and ideas can be worked in now.  Once the ‘big picture’ looks good . . .
  10. Do a third draft. Start looking at the little things — each line, each word.  You may feel like an extra scene is needed to explain a growing friendship, or you may discover new data to share in your ‘how to’.  Reading aloud to yourself is also a great tool for ferreting out awkward sentences.  The third draft is about making it as good as you can make it.  Then . .
  11. Find trustworthy readers. This is super-important: only use people you trust, love, share your idea of a good book, and WANT to read it.  If you can’t find that, it might be better to go it alone.  But getting these outside opinions is valuable, provided you remember it’s your book at the end of the day and the most important person to please is yourself.
  12. Do a forth draft. Take feedback from your readers (try to find at least three) and decide if you need to make a few changes.  If all your readers mention something, you might want to look closer at it.  Most of the great feedback I’ve gotten has been about beginnings (orient the reader about the world better), little side endings (couldn’t they get away and get the money?), and lackluster areas (the ‘food’ section of my self help book eventually became ‘Energy’ after reader feedback).
  13. Do a final draft (and copyedit). Go over your book again, seeing how it strikes you now.  Are you happy with everything or is there anything that still sticks out and bothers you?  Take the time to fix it.  And you do need to copyedit a lot, catching all the grammar and spelling errors you can.  It can be hard to do this on your own, but there are a lot of inexpensive copyeditors out there, or you might be able to do an exchange with another writer (you’ll catch their errors easier than your own).
  14. Cerebrate! You just became an author!

Some common questions —

How do I get published?  It’s pretty confusing these days and only you can decide what ‘published’ means to you.  The traditional way is to get an agent, who in turn will try to sell your book to a traditional publishing house.  You can also query a small publishing house, self-publish, or hire someone to ’self publish’ your book for you.

Say I want an agent — how do I get one?  First you’ll need a very good query letter and/or proposal.  There are whole books about how to write them — in a nutshell, they should recapture in a few pages what made you excited about this book and let the agent know what to expect.  Queryshark is a great site about queries for fiction writers.  You can find an agent on agentquery.com or by googling your favorite writer and the word ‘agent’.  But, it’s super hard to get an agent right now, as their whole industry is changing and they’re not taking on a lot of new clients right now.  So don’t be discouraged if you’re not chosen.  And always remember, you don’t pay for an agent — instead, they get a percentage of the book sale.

How do you ‘self publish’?  You can pay a printer to print up copies of your book.  But the best option for a lot of people (if you book doesn’t have many pictures) is to create a paperback and an ebook using services like Kindle Direct Publishing and Lulu.  You’ll need a program like Microsoft Word, and then Kindle Direct Publishing will give you a template that helps you design the book.  The upside is that Kindle Direct Publishing is free (you only pay for the books you buy), and puts high quality paperbacks (of yours!) into the hands of Amazon customers (and you get a percentage of the profit [higher than traditional publishing] from each sale).  The down side is that it doesn’t work for books with a lot of pictures, and EVERYTHING is on you.  You control how good the cover, editing, format, and marketing is — that’s a lot of power and responsibility.

What about companies that ‘help’ you self publish?  The best examples of these companies really are invested in making your dream come true.  The trade off is usually that you give them several thousand dollars and they take back a lot of that EVERYTHING responsibility that self publishing pushed into you — editing, formatting etc.  Different packages are different prices — just be sure to do a lot of research if you go this way.  And remember, it’s not anything you can’t learn to do yourself — but then, neither is making your own clothes.  You just have to decide if it’s worth the cost.

I have a great idea for a book.  Can I get someone else to do the ‘writing the book’ bit?  Yes — if you pay them.  Yes — if you want be part of a writing team and do half the work.  Yes — if you’re famous in your field and have a big built-in audience.  But if you have an idea (especially for fiction) and you just want someone else to do the work of writing — you’ll find writers already have too many good ideas and won’t take on some else’s.  So pick up that pen!

Can I get rich and famous doing this?  Of course; we’ve all read the success stories.  But the most important question is What do really want to get out of this?  Don’t just lump your book in with your job, the painting you found in the attic, and the lotto ticket you bought this morning at the Quik Trip.  To paraphrase Fight Club — you are not your get-rich-quick-scheme.  If you spend time with your grandmother, learn her life story, and self publish it as a treasured family heirloom — does it really matter if every book club in the country isn’t reading it?  If your great new plan for paying off student debt faster helps 100 kids have better lives, is that not a success?  If the characters that seem as real as day to you suddenly find a home in a second heart — have you not succeeded spectacularly?

Some Tips —

  • Use a computer if at all possible (it will save you a lot of time later)
  • Use 11 or 12 point Times New Roman font
  • Use format>linespacing>Between Lines 2 SP (or something similar in your program). This is double spacing your lines — it’s easier for editing)
  • If you only have one backup of your book file, you don’t have a backup. Keep several copies on different flash drives, hard drives etc.  And emailing yourself the file is a good way to keep it ‘in the cloud’.
  • Name different saves along the way — yourbook010414.doc — might be a good name for an extra copy you made on Jan. 4th. That way, if you don’t like changes you made, you can go back to the older file.
  • Remember to find inspiration — songs, paintings, picture, articles, jewelry etc that can inspire your book and your characters. Put the pictures around your work area (or on a Pinterest.com board to inspire you).
  • Printing out a chapter, editing it with pen in hand, and reading it aloud to yourself can really make a difference in your finished product.
  • Don’t worry about copyrighting your work. It’s yours from the moment you write it.  If you’re concerned, you can always print out the pages and mail them to yourself.  Don’t open the package; the postmark now serves as a date of when you began the work.  If anyone later tried to claim it, they couldn’t.  But honestly, I’ve never worried about it.  And if you’re afraid of someone stealing your once-in-a-life-time Matrix-like idea — then keep it to yourself until the book is written.
  • Read different things. Don’t read only romance and write romance, or only self help books and then write one.  Instead, try all sorts of things and let them inspire you.  Graphic novels, rap songs, 500 year old poems, British TV shows, documentaries!  Your work will be better and more original if you have more interests and express them in your work.
  • Get excited. There has never been a better time to write, to publish your own book, and/or to share your work online.

What Writing Challenge is Stirring Within Your Soul?

Yes, even as we enjoy and bustle through the holiday season, 2016 is already appearing on the horizon, challenging us with a new year of fresh possibility.  And whether you’ve been a writer since 1951 or last Friday, you have the potential to improve and amaze yourself in the coming weeks and months.

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Found on lifehack.org

365 days is a long time, provided each one finds you pushing yourself toward some new, greater goal.  Maybe 2016 is the year you finish your first novel, see your work published, or get that dream job.  The only absolute limits are those we impose on ourselves.

For myself, I’m looking to break into writing for dramatic television.  Am I looking at long odds and hard work ahead of me?  You bet.  But as my sister Sarah, an artist, says ‘What matters isn’t that it’s hard, what matters is that it’s doable.’

And your dreams too, can become realities.  So, once the Christmas tree comes down and the New Year’s Eve revelries are finished, once we’ve caught our breaths and cleared our minds, what will come whispering in your ear — what writing challenge is striving within your soul?

Found on lifehack.org

Found on lifehack.org

Whatever your goals are for next year, I hope the AWA can help.  Membership is as simple and free as showing up at an event or asking to join.  By design, we are a very loose, always transforming organization — it’s just more fun that way.  We never fear change or challenge (okay, everyone fears those things, but we try to feel the fear and do it anyway 😉

One of the downsides of our wide-ranging approach is that all our members may not know everything we do.  So here’s a short list of possible ways AWA can help you in the new year —

  • Our monthly meeting.  The last Sunday of every month finds a group of us coming together for a couple of hours of coffee and great conversation.  Everyone gets a turn to share what they’ve been working on in the last month (only if they wish to).  The group is always changing, newbies are welcome, and we end up having a wonderful time and talking about everything interesting under the sun.  A great place to start your AWA adventures.  Bonus: we’re all super-nice.
  • Classes!  Several times a time we offer free classes to encourage learning, discussion, and continued improvement in craft for our members.  We have four classes scheduled for Winter/Spring 2016 — Gisela Hausmann: The Naked Truth About Getting Book Reviews; Dynamic Duos: Great Love Stories & Friendships; Self Publishing and Ebooks; A Work of HeART: Bringing Artistry to a Single Line.  All levels of experience are welcomed and we often have handout sheets for extra educational value.
  • Tuesday Writing/Critique Group.  A wonderful and vibrant entity with its own independent vision and spirit.  This group has been meeting for a couple of years now, and they are as close-knit and supportive a group as I’ve even seen.  They recently published their first book —

  • Read-ins.  An exciting new event created by co-founder Jill Hartmann-Roberts.  In Jill’s words, ‘You can read a short piece or just listen and enjoy. Feedback is optional, and you can ask for specific comments if you wish.  This is ***not*** a critique group. We are here to appreciate the amazing writing of our peers in a relaxed, informal atmosphere.’  Everyone sits around a table, and it brings to mind many of the enjoyable aspects of reading in front of a crowd without it being nearly as stressful 😉
  • Write-ins.  Come and join other writers as we work on our writing projects. This is a great opportunity to get out of the house and away from the distractions of home to focus on your work while surrounded by other creative types.
  • Critique groups.  We currently have two full groups and a new group forming.  Let us know if you’re seriously interested in join up — you’ll learn a lot.
  • Have a personal page on our website.  If you haven’t yet leapt into the deep end of the pool and built your own website but still want to direct people to your bio and web presence, join our Your Locals Authors section of this site.  It’s free, though we may ask to meet you at an event first.  Let the world know who you are, if you have books available, and how to find more of your witty writing online (Facebook, Twitter, etc).
  • Public readings.  OMG!  There’s nothing like staring out at a packed room of people, all eyes on you, and reading your work to the world.  And you CAN do it.  The rewarding feeling of expanding your comfort zone is something you’ll always carry with you, and having people laugh, cry, and clap at your words is an incredible feeling.  We haven’t done these recently because they take a lot of planning but we will resume them when there’s enough interested parties (or robotic event planners become cheaper).
  • Self published collections.  Pimpin’ Prompts is only the latest AWA-affiliated book to hit shelves.  Also check out The Journey Home and Writers After Dark.  We are planning on a humorous collection in the coming year and will have more details in time.
  • Free Meetup.com group.  Meetup.com can be expensive if you want to start your own group, but please feel free to post any events related to fun, friendship, health (hiking etc), creative inspiration (going together to see movies, music etc), and of course anything writing related (as long as it’s not just an advertisement — I reserve the right to take those down).  Connect to your peeps and make new friends.  I’d love people to use this page more often.  Feel free — it’s your page!
  • Mentoring.  While not an official offering, you’ll find wonderful support and help from almost every member of AWA you meet.  We all have different experiences and viewpoints to help you reach your goals, and we’ve all asked ourselves the questions running around in your brain (well, maybe not that one).  I’m happy to answer any writing questions I can by email.
  • A chance to gain experience in teaching classes, spearheading events, editing book collections…  Seriously, this is a group that is all about each person becoming better because someone else is bold enough and excited and wants to share.  So get in here and begin to see yourself as a teacher, a leader.  You’ve got wonderful experience that no one else has and everyone needs to become the best writer they can be.  And when you see what kind of mentor YOU can be, you’ll never think of yourself the same way again.  I haven’t.

How to find more info: Check out the Upcoming Events link on this site, or join our free Meetup.com group — http://www.meetup.com/People-Who-Have-Come-Alive-Achieving-Your-Dreams-in-Athens.  Join our Facebook page.  And contact me, your founder, at katherinecerulean@gmail.com if you’re interested in the Tuesday Writing/Critique Group; being part of our new critique group; teaching/editing/event planning; or if you have random writing questions.

The AWA is comprised of real writers, i.e. people who write a lot on the whole.  That takes up time.  Add in full time jobs and family responsibilities (not to mention the once-a-year dish washing) and we individually only have so much energy to plan events and grow the AWA in new and unexpected ways.

That’s where you come in.  The AWA is a tool to allow you to connect, create, and improve yourself and your writing — one day at a time.  It’s full of the nicest people you’ll ever meet but we’ve saved a seat, right in middle, for you.  So come join us, and make 2016 your best, most exciting year of writing yet.

Found on wellsfargocommunity.com

Found on wellsfargocommunity.com

 

 

1st Annual AWA Writers Picnic!

wordwomanpartialellipsisofthesun.blogspot.com

Come one, come all!

  • Saturday, June 20, 2015

    2:00 PM

  • Ben Burton Park

    Mitchell Bridge Road, Athens, GA

 

The Athens Writers Association invites all Athens-area writers (including screenwriters, songwriters, poets, etc) to join our five founding members — Katherine Cerulean, Jill Hartmann-Roberts, Jennifer Innes, Elsa Russo, and Rob White —  for an afternoon of fun, food, and fellowship. Come meet the other energetic, creative, and friendly wordsmiths who are living right in your hometown. If you haven’t gotten to come to an AWA meeting before — now’s your chance!

New writers are welcome. This event is FREE!

Note: The picnic is a potluck-style event, so if you arrive hungry, please bring a dish. If you can’t afford a dish or are not hungry, please bring just yourself!

Ben Burton Park is free but has limited seating, so bring a chair or a blanket if it would make you more comfortable.
Feel free to bring Frisbees etc, for even more fun!

 

How To Create and Publish an Ebook

black android smartphone beside black ceramic mug on brown wooden table

Photo: @felipepelaquim

For those of you who couldn’t make it to our ebook class, here’s the handout.  Enjoy!

By Katherine Cerulean

NOTE: Most of the information below is about how to publish an ebook on Amazon.com.  That’s what I first tried and it’s worked so well for me that I haven’t looked further.  But for those opposed to Amazon, lulu.com and nookpress.com/ebooks are other popular ways to bring your ebook into the world.  Gumroad.com is another option — it allows you to sell files directly to your readers.

First of All . . .

Creating a great ebook begins long before you start an Amazon Kindle account, create a book cover, or hit the ‘upload’ button.  Like everything we do, it starts with great writing.

Deciding to publish your own ebook is the first step in one of the most dramatic examples of ‘you get out of something what you put into it’ that you’ll ever experience.  And on one shoulder you’ll see the angel of ‘professional, traditionally-published books’ — inspiring you and disheartening you by turns with their high level of perfection (more specifically formatting and proofreading than necessarily content).  On your other shoulder is the devil of ‘DIY {shrug} good enough books’ — temping you to give up and accept a ‘sort of’ professional book that’s still better than 50% of stuff out there (BTW — I think in any venture you should shoot for [and can hit] the top 90% to 95% percentile of awesome).

The best way to rise above the ebook crowd is to have a great book to start with.  An amazing story, interesting or helpful information, or unforgettable characters.  You want to have the same high standards a traditional book publisher would have, and press yourself for another rewrite if it’s not quite up to par (actually, we’re aiming for birdies and eagles here, if you remember).

Now, I know what you’re thinking — “I know about writing.  I came here to learn about creating an ebook.”  Fair enough, but understand this: sending out an unpolished, error-filled, ‘good enough’ ebook into the world will do no one any favors.  Instead, honor yourself and spend the time, effort, or money (if you decide to hire an editor and/or proofreader) to get it right.  I promise you that the feeling of pride you get will make your effort worthwhile.

So to sum up: Remember to have a perfect copy first — PERFECT.  Every tiny mistake, added line, and misspelled word can make a huge headache later.  Every time I’m like ‘I wish I’d edited more’ — every time.

What are You Publishing — and Why?

If you’ve ever submitted a query letter to an agent or publisher, you know things like word count and genre are integral parts of that communication.  But what about when you are in charge; do those things matter at all?

The short answer is: Somewhat.  The long answer: They should matter to you for the main reason they matter to traditional publishers — audience expectations.

Ebooks allow total freedom in word count.  You can publish a 80,000 word self help book, a 2,000 word short story, or a 1,000,000 word epic fantasy novel — but should you?  You have to charge at least 99 cents on Amazon for your book, so something as short as this blog would probably be a disappointment to most readers.  Conversely, I might also want my 99 cents back after slugging through a novel nearly twice as long as War & Peace.

So don’t worry too much about length, but don’t use your freedom with word count to become unprofessional.

As for that other language of query letters, what about genres?  Here you’ll get to decide, and you should educate yourself about different genres and find the books most similar to your own.  Don’t call your book ‘young adult’ just because it’s a hot category.

The last question you should ask yourself is ‘Why do I want to publish an ebook?’  Some people want to be as successful as J.K. Rowling.  Well, sure.  But in the here and now, wanting to share your story, or your grandmother’s story, is a more attainable goal.  Wanting to make a beautiful, polished ebook and doing something you’ve never done before is a wonderful thing to want, and a very satisfying thing to achieve.

How to Format Your Manuscript

Everything from this section is from Catherine Ryan Howard’s wonderful book Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing (now in its 3rd edition).  I really can’t recommend this book too strongly to anyone interested in self publishing.  This is just a taste of the details and steps she takes you through — I really wouldn’t do a project without it!  Spending $15 is a very worthwhile investment in your ebook.

First make two copies marking one ebook and one paperback (e.g. ‘othergodsebook.doc’).  Make another called othergodsebook2.doc or something just in case things go horribly wrong.

Keep it simple, something that it can easily convert and look good on many different devices.  No crazy fonts, line breaks, bullet-lists etc.

Some books don’t work as ebooks (photography, cooking, etc).  Novels are a little easier to convert than other types of books.

Turn off ‘Track Changes’.

Things that have to go (if you’re using Microsoft Word)–

  • Headers and Footers (the numbers that tell us what page we’re on and what book we’re reading)
  • Title page
  • Copyright (we’ll change it for the ebook)
  • Tables, columns, and other non-fiction elements

Go ‘nuclear’ by taking away all formatting by copying your file and pasting it into NotePad, TextEdit.

Copy and paste that back into Word.  Eliminate blank lines (two at the end of each chapter is fine).

Copy all and go to Format -> Style then modify it to Times New Roman, 10 Point, left-aligned and single space.

Then go to Format -> Paragraph and set it to left-aligned with first line indent to 0.3″.

Add front matter like this —

OTHER GODS

By Katherine Cerulean

Kindle Edition | Copyright 2015 Katherine Cerrulean

All rights reserved.  No part of this e-book may be reproduced in any form other than that in which it was purchased without the written permission of the author.

This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.

Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

http://www.KatherineCerulean.com

Then create a new style called ‘Front Matter’ and center your text, and use Paragraph to not have indents.

You’ll eventually have two files, one for Smashwords and one for Kindle, but you can do that at the end.  The ‘Kindle edition’ section in the front matter will be the only difference.

Only insert page breaks after the front matter and after each chapter.  Place one paragraph before and after the page break.  Create the break by going to Insert ->Page Break.

Go back and add in italics and bold.

Then add end matter like this —

THE END

###  — always end your ebook will these three marks

(Other Possible End Matter) —

Author’s Note

Something very important about your book, such as historical clarification.

Acknowledgements

In an ebook these go at the end.  Time to thank all the good folks that got you here.

About the Author (should look something like this)

Katherine Cerulean grew up in the countryside, home-schooled near Athens, GA.  She has been writing seriously for sixteen years, starting with screenwriting and then moving into novels.  Her completed novels are Other Gods (a fantasy) and A Caged Heart Still Beats (a love story).  She is the founder of the Athens Writers Association.  She is also the author of How to Come Alive: A Guidebook to Living the Life of Your Dreams.  Her next novel Fall Street, a coming of age story, is in progress.

Read the first chapter of Fall Street at http://www.katherinecerulean.com/my-novels/fall-street.com

http://www.KatherineCerulean.com

You can also create a ‘live’ table of contents.  I did not bother with this for my self improvement book, but for a longer non-fiction it could be an advantage.

Your Ebook Cover

The best cover I could make . . .

The best cover I could make . . .

. . . and the cover my sister, who is an artist, made.

. . . and the cover my sister, who is an artist, made.

Your cover should be a JPEG image that is at least 1,000 pixels wide on the longest side and ideally a height/width ratio of 1.6 and Amazon recommends 2,500 pixels on the longest side for best quality.

You can make an easy little cover with Word or Publisher but remember to buy  a picture from the stock image websites or use your own — never anyone else’s.  You could also get written permission (say, if you wanted to use an old photo your mother had taken of your grandmother).

BUT — You get what you pay for.  I learned the hard way that you really need a professional’s eye (or at least an art or design student’s).  In Athens it should be easy to find someone who has the skills you’re looking for.  Remember, you have skills too; maybe you could proofread their term paper in exchange for their time and effort.

Uploading To Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing

Creating an account is super easy and free.  You will need to enter your name, address, and social security number (for tax purposes).

Then Add New Title  — (getting exciting here!)

Add your cover photo, description, and book file.  Search my name and ‘amazon descriptions’ if you would like to read my three-part series about writing a good listing.  BAM!  You’re done and your ebook listing should appear on Amazon in a few days.

Other Info

Smashwords.com is a free site where you can also sell your ebook and get in on Barnes & Noble’s website, Kobo website etc.  It’s harder to get a ‘passing grade’ than with Amazon, but if you’re serious you should eventually do it.  It’s also can be hard to get your book off those sites if you decide you want to take it down to do an exclusive Amazon promotion.

Quick Notes About Creating a Paperback:

Createspace.com is the perfect venue to use if you want to publish a paperback and an ebook.  It’s a part of Amazon and for free you can create both a paperback and an ebook (you’ll still be uploading two different files so it’s still twice the work).

The paperback is a separate beast, but one only somewhat more gnarly (and snarly) than its ebook cousin.  Paperbacks add in page numbers, fancier chapter headings, white pages to denote new sections, and more appealing lists.  All of these can make a self published book look very professional.  And all can make you want fall on the floor weeping.  A book like Self-Printed by Catherine Ryan Howard, can teach you how to format your paperback and in the end, a few day’s work is well worth it when you see how beautiful your book can be.

In the End

The most important takeaway is that you CAN publish an ebook.  It’s not magic.  It doesn’t take a million dollars.  What it takes a little time, a little practice, and a whole lot of patience (or coffee).  But you’ll come away with a powerful new skill, a beautiful book, and a wonderful way to share your story with the world.  Let me know if I can help.

For questions — contact me at katherinecerulean@gmail.com.  Or visit —      Katherinecerulean.com